Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Attitude Matters

I believe that how you live matters more than what you do.

(“How you live” is your approach to life, your attitude, your demeanor.)

(“What you do” are the specific words and acts that you accomplish or don’t.)

I also believe that most of the world believes the opposite: that what you do matters more than how you live.

We might not put it that way exactly, but I’ve noticed how we construct our systems and order our lives toward accomplishment, advancement, measurable goals, and growth. In other words, we place a high value on the end, sometimes to the neglect of the means. So concerned about “what” we are doing, we tend to neglect the “how” and may never even consider the “why.”

Get good grades. Win the game. Meet the deadline. Make the quota. Come in on budget (or even better, under). Set a specific, attainable, measurable goal and then assess at the end of the predetermined time period whether it has been met, rinse and repeat. So many of our values seem to be skewed toward prioritizing our accomplishments, what we do, over anything else.

But every now and then something happens to shake up that value system. Like last Sunday, when Brian Davis came in second at the Verizon Heritage golf tournament. Jim Furyk was the winner; he’s the one with the big accomplishment. But Brian Davis is the one the news was buzzing about the next day.

You’ve probably heard the story by now; he came in second because he called a two-stroke penalty against himself.

He chose to do the right thing, even though the infraction was accidental and so miniscule that it may have been overlooked by the officials had he said nothing. That reveals how he lives, more so than what he did. Oh sure, second place at a PGA tournament is a pretty big accomplishment, as well. But that’s not the point.

The point is that Brian Davis placed more importance on how he lived than what he did. He has never won a PGA event, and had a chance last weekend. Tied at the end of the day, in a playoff with Furyk, a rare opportunity he may never have again, Davis could have caved in to the pressure for accomplishment. But he didn’t. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Of course, disciples of Jesus Christ need to think about what we do, and be sure that we’re doing good stuff, stuff that God wants us to be doing. But is it okay to do good stuff with a bitter, resentful attitude? 2 Corinthians 9 doesn’t say that God loves a grumpy giver, does it? In fact, Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Doing good stuff is supposed to be like letting an inner light radiate outward into the world, a light that inspires people to worship God. That says to me that our demeanor (our attitude, our approach) is at least as important, if not actually more important than the particular action we happen to be taking at the time.

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